I earned my BA from the Evergreen State College (Olympia, WA) and MS from Western Washington University (Bellingham, WA).
While I have loved mathematics for as long as I can remember, I did not find my vocation as a teacher until my first quarter in graduate school. In exchange for a tuition waiver and a small stipend, I taught college algebra for the university.
Those first students should not be envied, but I had a wonderful time. I figured that if teaching was this exciting before I knew what I was doing, then it could only get better as my ability increased. Over a decade later, I find myself more interested in teaching, mathematics, and students than I was when I began.
I was hired at Highline right out of graduate school where I became the youngest fulltime hire ever at twenty-two. I had shaved my beard for the interview process, but I grew it out as soon as I could to look a bit older.
But, nine years later, I am still mistaken for a student on a regular basis.
During my time at Highline, I have taken part in many committees and activities on campus. Some of my favorites include: managing the math department budget and schedule, creating and overseeing the Math Resource Center, and working with students to set the budget for the student fees (clubs, athletics, tutoring, the HSU, '¦).
I have also served as faculty advisor to a group of Christian students (CRU) since my first week on campus.
My Personal Story
I was raised in a log cabin built by my hippy parents. We didn't have animals, but we did grind our own grain and eat a lot of granola.
My mom stayed home with my brother and me and my Dad tried to get his residential house painting company off the ground. The early years were pretty tight and I guess we ate a lot of beans. I suppose that was good preparation for a career as a teacher.
My folks had become followers of Jesus just a few years before I was born (my mother was raised reform Jew and my father Roman Catholic). For as long as I can remember, that meant that every aspect of life was centered on the Bible.
We spent about half a year in the Philippines where Dad used his dramatic abilities to help a missionary friend of his in Manila. I think that this was the first time I saw how belief in Jesus was more than something you did on Sundays; it was a holistic worldview that involved career, passion, and family.
One of my struggles as a kid was with a contradiction in my own life. I loved to read and did so with such abandon that mom placed me on book restriction ' I could only read one book a day. (I remember going to a weeklong drama camp where I had the lead role in a little Western. In the midst of that, I managed to read 14 novels). Anyway, even though I loved to read, I never read my Bible.
When I was in community college, I became good friends with a Vietnamese woman who intended to be a nun. We would talk before class about differential equations, family, and spiritual matters. She talked about how she read from the four biblical accounts of Jesus on a daily basis and that changed my life.
I thought that if my friend could show such uncharacteristically Catholic devotion to the word of God, then so could I who had every encouragement around me. That began a routine of daily Bible readings that continues to the present.
There was one other struggle that cast a huge shadow over my life from high school on into my early years at Highline. You probably could guess the issue ' namely the seeming contradiction between Biblical faith and the study of science. I was afraid and so I avoided the issue until a few years into my time at Highline when I began to read books on faith and science.
I came to the realization that if Jesus is who he says he is, then there can't be a contradiction between the natural world and the Christian faith. However, there was a contradiction between my interpretation of certain Biblical accounts and a purely materialistic view of the cosmos. This is still an area that causes inner turmoil for me, but I have chosen to try to follow the truth as I am able ' regardless of whether I am ostracized by my academic or faith community. In this, I see myself as a student who begs for academic freedom to learn before having to make a personal commitment.
I hope that I have not given the impression that I worked through these two struggles in complete isolation. Jesus seems to paradoxically call us to individual responsibility within the context of a community.
Most of my personal growth has come in small communities that were willing to be vulnerable, share life, and be transformed by God. I remember joining the first such group while at community college. The men I met there were role models for me and so I continued to search out similar gatherings throughout the life changes that followed.
Later, I met my wife Charlene at a Christian fellowship (I like to joke that I went to Evergreen looking for a Christian woman. There was only one, so I married her.) The people in these faith-families dramatically impacted me and are why I have such a desire to serve college students through CRU and now through a community of Christian faculty at Highline.
I suppose that is how this story connects with yours. An understanding of who Jesus is impacts every facet of life. My concern is that you might spend all of your time at Highline focused on the next test, and never consider the person you are becoming.
Think back on your family, community, struggles, and successes. As you are able, learn about what is true, wise, right, and beautiful. It is my conviction that if you look, you will find Jesus.